Soldiers heat up Warri waterways
… Raze boats conveying suspected illegally refined diesel
The waterways of Warri, Delta State, were heated up, as military personnel over the weekend launched fresh offensive against suspected oil thieves in the state.
Consequently, a number of locally made vessels, called Cotonou boats in local parlance,conveying alleged illegally refined diesel on Warri waterways.
The military operation by operatives believed to be of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, codenamed Operation Pulo Shield, grounded commercial activities on the waterways for hours, as boat passengers scampered overboard, as sporadic gunshots came from the soldiers.
A boat belonging to a woman, who denied she was engaged in illegal refining and transportation of petroleum products, was allegedly burnt by the soldiers.
The woman, according to eyewitness accounts, was allegedly carrying six gallons of kerosene bought the previous day in Warri in a boat, which the soldiers the intercepted, concluding that thye kerosene had been illegally refined.
It was gathered that the soldiers impounded the kerosene consignment and the means of conveyance, adding the items to other seizures they promptly made bonfires of on the waterways.
One of the witnesses to the incident and the National Coordinator of Ijaw People’s Development Initiative, IPDI, Mr. Austin Ozobo, while condemning the incessant burning of boats on waterways by the task force, said: “They should arrest offenders and ensure they are prosecuted, rather than polluting the river by burning petroleum products on the waterways.
“She (the consignee of the six gallons of kerosene) explained that she did not use her boat for illegal activity. The military personnel, I assume, knew that the particular boat was not being used for illegal activity because they later dismantled the engine and handed it to her.
“My worry is why they still went ahead to burn her boat?”
Ozobo, while appealing to the Chief of Army Staff to probe the incident, said that some military personnel operating in the region were overbearing.
The spokesperson of the Niger Delta JTF, Lt. Col Onyema Nwachukwu, could not be reached for his comments on the incident.
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